Religious education: It's not just for kids anymore Print
Written by Mary C. Uhler   
Thursday, Sep. 13, 2012 -- 12:00 AM

Editor's View by Mary C. Uhler

The late Jack McBride, who used to be in charge of adult education programs in the Diocese of Madison, often reminded me that Jesus taught adults and blessed children.

When I think about Jesus’ life as recorded in the Scriptures, I realize that Jack was right. Jesus is almost always found teaching adults. As we know, Jesus often used parables to help get his message across in words his audience could understand in that time and place.

I’m sure Jack realized that we do need to educate our children. However, he felt that the Catholic Church should do much more to educate adults on matters of the faith.

Updating our knowledge of the faith

After all, adults should increase their understanding and knowledge of their faith in order to pass it on to their children, grandchildren, and others they touch each day. We need continual updating in our faith, especially in how it relates to issues we’re facing each day.

If the last time you learned anything about your faith was in a Confirmation preparation class, maybe it’s time to consider attending a class in the Diocese of Madison’s Seat of Wisdom Institute, going to an adult education program at your parish, or getting involved in a Bible study group.

A journey that lasts a lifetime

We’ve got a special impetus this year as we are approaching the beginning of the Year of Faith, proclaimed by Pope Benedict  XVI in his apostolic letter, Porta Fidei (“The Door of Faith”), starting on October 11, 2012, and ending on November 24, 2013.

In Porta Fidei, the Holy Father said, “To enter through the door is to set out on a journey that lasts a lifetime.” Note that the pope emphasizes that our journey of faith lasts throughout our lives.

Pope Benedict also points out that the need for being better educated about our faith is more important than ever today. That’s because, in his words, we are facing “a profound crisis of faith that has affected many people.”

The pope says that the teachings of Jesus are still powerful today. “Indeed, the teaching of Jesus still resounds in our day with the same power,” he says. However, we Catholics must let the world know about the power and beauty of our faith.

The Catechism of the Catholic Church

How do we begin? The Holy Father suggests that we begin with studying the Catechism of the Catholic Church, which he calls “a precious and indispensable tool.” He calls it “one of the most important fruits of the Second Vatican Council.”

I have a copy of the Catechism on my desk and find it to be a valuable resource in my understanding of Church teaching. As Blessed Pope John Paul II said, the Catechism is “offered to all the faithful who wish to deepen their knowledge of the unfathomable riches of salvation.”

The Catechism covers four “pillars” of our faith: what we believe, the Sacraments, the Christian life, and Christian prayer. Pope Benedict says in Porta Fidei that the Catechism is not just a book of ideas, but rather an encounter with Christ as a person.

As we get to know Christ better, we will be able to share our faith with others. Faith is more than just an individual belief, Pope Benedict emphasizes. He says that “faith commits every one of us to become a living sign of the presence of the Risen Lord in the world.”

Catechetical Sunday and the new evangelization

That brings me to Catechetical Sunday. Each year, Catechetical Sunday is celebrated in the Catholic Church in the United States on the third Sunday of September; this year it will be celebrated nation-wide on Sunday, Sept. 16.

The 2012 Catechetical Sunday theme is: “Catechists and Teachers as Agents of the New Evangelization.”  Catechetical Sunday is an opportunity to reflect on the role that each person plays by virtue of Baptism, in handing on the faith and being a witness to the Gospel.

Although it is especially a time to recognize and commission catechetical leaders and catechists who are the backbone of the catechetical ministry, it is also an opportunity for all members of the Church to rededicate themselves to the mission of teaching the Gospel in our community of faith and beyond.

I encourage all adults to consider how they can deepen their understanding and knowledge of their faith so that they can share it with others more confidently, especially as we approach the Year of Faith.